COON RAPIDS, Minn. -- The Coon Rapids City Council voted unanimously this week to allow Hope 4 Youth to construct transitional housing on Coon Rapids Boulevard.
It's the first of its kind in the area, with plans to house 12 homeless youth ages 18 to 23.
The site is located near Highway 47 and Coon Rapids Boulevard, where the Stage Door Dance Studio was once located.
Brian Swanson said he and a group of others in Anoka County recognized a growing problem of youth homelessness in the area about three years ago and wanted to fight it.
“Anoka County really doesn't have a lot of resources for these people,” Swanson said. “Most of them are going to school that we see. They're hard working kids, they need the help, they need a break.”
“Kids that don't have structure at home sometimes have to take desperate measures to get by to survive. And of course, for me, my worry is theft, or breaking into a home that's abandoned or something like that. So it's an issue of concern,” Coon Rapids Police Chief Brad Wise said.
After forming the non-profit Hope 4 Youth, Swanson said the group wanted to find a place for them to stay with goals in mind.
Leaders of Hope 4 Youth came up with a transitional housing plan for 18 to 23 year olds, who must be going to school or have a job, and pay what they can for rent.
“The idea is we're going to give these young people the opportunity to be responsible for their own apartment, have their own place and we'll have the support there to make sure they're successful,” Swanson, Hope 4 Youth’s board chair, said.
They found a potential location, the former Stage Door Dance Studio, then had to be approved by city council.
“It was hard to believe (that it passed unanimously).” “We expected to have hurdles and challenges and opposition and both the planning commission and city council meeting there wasn't a single person that even stepped up and spoke in any way opposing what we're doing. So that's really affirming,” Swanson said.
“A: You're helping an individual who needs the help, but B: the larger goal, is that if these kids become successful, they're contributors to society in a bigger way rather than a drain on society that some people might worry about,” Wise said.
Swanson thanked the community that donated more than one million dollars to fund the project, and he hopes to be able to eventually expand the home to three stories and 36 units.
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